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Gardai believe toxic fumes may have killed pensioners

An elderly couple were found dead in their country home of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning, it emerged last night.

Paddy Joe and Annie McCormack were found lying in their house in the quiet townland of Cleen, near Knockvicar, Co Roscommon, late on Tuesday.

The local postmistress Anne Byrne had raised the alarm after the couple were not seen for several days and did not collect their pension or local paper over the Easter break.

Gardai called to the house just after at 10pm on Tuesday night and found 67-year-old Mr McCormack and his 75-year-old wife dead on the kitchen floor.

A post-mortem examination is due to be carried out today but gardai say there was no sign of a break-in at the house and no evidence of violence.

One theory being investigated is that the deaths may be linked to a solid-fuel range in the kitchen of their home.

Cathal and Anne Beirne, who run the post office in Knockvicar, called to the McCormacks' one-storey house home on Tuesday night. A light was on and when they looked in a window, they could see the two bodies on the floor.

Mr Beirne said: "They were a grand, quiet couple. It is very sad."

One local woman pointed out that the bodies might not have been found for several more days, if the Beirnes had not been so concerned about the welfare of their neighbours.

"It does show the importance of the post office in quiet rural places such as this," she said.

Neighbour Tim Duignan said the couple were "quiet and inoffensive".

"People here are very sad and shocked. This is not something you would expect to happen in your own neighbourhood."

The couple travelled everywhere together on their Honda 50 motorcycle, which was parked in their shed yesterday.

They regularly travelled to nearby towns such as Boyle and Drumshanbo on the bike. "Paddy Joe was very careful and if there was an hour's frost, he would not take the Honda out," said Mr Duignan.

Mr McCormack was a local man and had lived all his life in the Knockvicar area, while his wife was originally from Carrick-on-Shannon. They had no children.

He had worked on the roads with Roscommon County Council but it is understood that he retired early due to ill health.

Following a garda forensic examination at the scene, the bodies were removed from the house and taken to University College Hospital Galway.

Locals said they believed the husband and wife had not suffered ill health recently and were also in good spirits.

Sent: 27/03/2008

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